Saravanan, R, (2012) e-Agriculture Prototype for Knowledge Facilitation among Tribal Farmers of North-East India: Innovations, Impact and Lessons. Journal of Agricultural Education and Extension. Vol.19 (2).Pp:113-131

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Home E agriculture Crop Information Importance,Scope,Constraints & Remedies of Maps

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Medicinal and Aromatic plants (MAPs) provide avenues to integrate the potential of commercial as well as social value with food crops in such a way that food crops while becoming intensive in high value produce, can also integrate MAPs as “high income options” in fertile lands and “only income options” in waste and marginal lands. Thanks to the plant’s own biological defence strategy and capability that they produce ‘secondary metabolites’ to combat the adversities/stresses whether biotic and abiotic. Medicinal & Aromatic plants are one of the major natural resources of our country occurring in diverse ecosystems. Lately, many people due to rare chances of side effects prefer herbal remedies and their safer products.
North East India is one of the richest repositories of Medicinal and Aromatic plants in the world which will pave way for reaping the Green Gold. Scientific approach for their exploration, conservation and value addition is in high demand now a day for entrepreneurship development.


It provides natural source of high value industrial raw material for pharmaceutical, agri. chemicals, food and cosmetic industries and opens up new possibilities for higher level of gains for farmers with a significant scope for progress in rural economy.

Rediscovery of the scientific basis of connection between plants and health promises a new generation botanical therapeutics that include plant derived pharmaceuticals, dietary supplements, functional foods and indicate good prospects for exports of MAP.
Essential oils or value added extracts or products required for perfumery, flavour, fragrance and cosmetic industries in addition to aromatherapy value are other important areas where India can contribute to business and demand globally.

It ensures the production of assured and uniform quality material and can be act as economic driven participatory conservation.
Medicinal plants like menthol mint (Mentha arvensis) transform the socio-economic status of poor farmers with all round improvement in quality of their life with visible impact in the form of housing, nutrition in form of balanced meals to the family, mechanisation of their farms, and machinery including post harvest processing capabilities and their visible move towards literacy with their children going to school. Also,Japanese mint is considered as bonus crop providing leadership to India in world market.

Artemisia annua is an anti-malarial industrial crop for industry and contractual farming. Artemisinin can provide a cure from chloro- quinine resistant Plasmodium falciparum.
Rose scented geranium (Pelargonium graveolens) – a symbol of agri – entrepreneurship shows high demand of geranium oil in Indian cosmetics, perfumery and flavour industry and immensely popular among the small farmers.

Many MAP do not require intensive agri-inputs and grow well under natural stress condition. A number of aromatic grasses viz. Lemon grass, palmarosa, vetiver and plants like chamomile are the potential crops suited for salt affected soils.

MAP under cultivation has the potential of employment generation as it involves range of entrepreneurial activities like cultivation, processing, extraction, product formulation, and fractionation. All these activities being labour intensive provide employment opportunities and pave way for poverty alleviation in rural sector. Thus, uplifts the socio-economic status of landless labourers, generates additional income for small and marginal farmers, potential for self employment and provides total value chain from seed/propagules production to product formulation.
Co-Cultivation of MAP in various agro and forestry systems offer hope for generating higher profits.e.g. mint cultivated with sugarcane, geranium with garlic & onion, aromatic grasses with pulses.Also,orchard and plantations can profitably accommodate shade loving crops of patchouli and sarpagandha.

The demand of MAP is on the rise in both developing and developed countries due to their growing recognition in pharmaceutical, cosmetic, agricultural and food industry. Demand & price of herbal products and essential oils are increasing consistently in national & international markets due to strong pro-consumer movement. Essential oils (Volatile of ethereal oils as they evaporate when exposed to air at ordinary temperature) contribute to about 17 per cent. Use of essential oil is 55-60 per cent for flavours in food industry, 15-21 per cent for fragrance in perfumery/cosmetics industry, 10-20 per cent as starting material for isolation of components, 5-10 per cent as active substances in pharmaceutical preparation & 2-5 per cent for natural products. USA, France and Germany are in forefront of essential oil trade. Commercially, the plant derived medicines, essential oils and products are worth about US$ 72 billion (Rs. 360,000 crores) worldwide including a global business of medicinal herbal material of US$ 60 billion (Rs. 300,000 crores). Increased consumer demand for herbal products may be attributed to increased awareness about health, adverse and unacceptable side effects of synthetic drugs and has been further fuelled by rising cost of prescription drugs. In India, estimated production of perfumery raw material is around 5000t/annum valued at Rs. 400 crores and export of around Rs. 130 crores. 18000 species are found in India. Out of these 1500 species contain aromas and only 65 have large and consistent demand in world trade and hence they are cultivated. In India, area under aromatic plants is more than 20,000ha with annual production of about 1500t. Average of productivity of essential oil crops is 75kg/ha. Pepper, Ginger, Cardamom, Saffron, Clove, Fenugreek, Cumin seeds, celery seed oils and oleoresins are primarily used for flavouring. The most traded essential oils are mints, basil, orange, clove leaf, citronella, lemon grass, sandal wood, eucalyptus, geranium, lavender, jasmine and tuberose. Essential oils of ginger, sandalwood, lemon grass, jasmine and tuberose are exported from India to Russia, USA, France, Germany, Britain, Netherlands, Australia and gulf countries.
It is estimated that nearly 3/4th of the plant derived prescription drugs used worldwide were discovered following leads form local medicine. About 25 per cent of modern medicines are descended from plants first used traditionally. Many others are synthetic analogous built on prototype compounds isolated from plants.
The largest global markets for MAP are china, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Spain and UK. USA and Japan has the highest per capita consumption of botanical medicines in the world. In the US and Europe, the trade has typically been growing at an average of 6-10 per cent per annum, partly because of the popularity of alternative treatments and partly because there is increasing official recognition of the benefits of traditional medical systems involving herbal preparation.

India, with 2.4 per cent of world area and 8 per cent of global diversity is one of the 12 mega-diversity hot spots (8th important vavilovian centres of origin and crop plant diversity). It is believed that one fifth of all plants found in India are medicinally important whereas the world average stands at about 12.5 per cent. It is known that 80-90 per cent of 50,000 medicinal plants used are still collected from wild. 4000 to 10,000 of them are being endangered because of destructive harvesting practice and by various environmental, socio-economic and institutional problems. About 150 medicinal plants have turned threatened in peninsular India as per IUCN red list. At this time traditional and indigenous knowledge about these plants is weakening and in some cases vanishing altogether.

India is a major exporter of raw MAPs and processed plant based drugs. India is 2nd largest exporter next to china accounted for about 13 per cent of global imports and USA is the principal market for Indian medicinal plants accounting for about 50 per cent of exports. The domestic market of medicinal plants or related products is about Rs. 4000 crores with 2, 00,000 MT. This along with an export level of Rs. 1200 crores makes the commercialisation of Indian medicinal plants sector expected to be Rs. 7500 crores by 2010. On the essential oil front, as against the world production of 1,10, 000 MT (US$ 9200 million), India contributes about 15 per cent in terms of production and much better proportion of 21 per cent for the value. Ironically, India has very small share (less than 2 per cent) of this ever growing market.

The global market for herbal medicine is around US$ 10 billion. India’s share is less than 0.1 per cent. By 2010, the expected market will touch to US$ 40billion.

Apart from health care MAPs provides means of livelihood to scores of people. Also, increase d awareness about the potential of MAPs has encouraged many innovative and progressive growers and entrepreneur to take their cultivation as a commercial enterprise.

Many of the medicinal Plants are cultivated commercially for extraction of important active constituents for the use in modern medicine. For steroidal hormones which are synthesized from diosgenin, hecogenin or solasodin, different species of Dioscorea, Solanaum and Agave are cultivated. Costus speciosus is also a source of diosgenin. Papavar somniferum is a source of different types of alkaloids, out of which morphine, codeine, papaverine and nascopine are used in medicine. Bark of cinchona contains quinine and quinidine. Sarpgandha contain reserpine, periwinkle contain vincristine and vinblastin. Likewise there are various medicinal plants which contribute for the manufacture of modern day medicine.

Spreading and preserving the traditional knowledge of curing various ailments has become an important for human existence.

Due to volatile nature of essential oils (rosemary, thyme, sage etc.), the hazardous effect of virus and air borne germs to some extent minimised by aroma or vapours of essential oils saturated atmosphere.


About 90 per cent of India’s requirement of essential oil is met from indigenous production and remaining from import. India ranks 28th in imports and 14th in exports in global trade of essential oils. India’s contribution is only 1.1 per cent in exports and 0.7 per cent in import. Home demand for essential oils is projected at 15000t and export targeted at 3400t. Annual production of MAPs raw material is worth about Rs. 200 crores. But world production is likely to touch US $5 trillion by 2050. Lavender, patchouli, clove, nutmeg, geranium and rose oils are still imported from china, Brazil, turkey, Bulgaria, Australia, Indonesia and Sri Lanka for meeting the industrial requirements.

Essential oils and aroma chemicals constitute a major group of industrial products. These oils form indispensible ingredients of cosmetics, soaps, pharmaceuticals, perfumery, confectionary, ice-creams, aerated waters, disinfectants, tobacco agarbathis etc.

Use of essential oils in therapeutics (Aromatherapy) which tends to affect on body, mind and soul, a unique, less costly health care system leading to calmness, emotional balance, stress relief and rejuvenation, is now becoming popular in Japan and European countries. Besides, essential oils, people find varied uses as carminative (Oils of spearmint, peppermint, chamomile), Anthelmintic (oil of chenopodium, eucalyptus, cajuput turpentine, clove, anise, cinnamon), antiseptic, sedatives (oils of sandal wood, lavender, bergamot mint, chamomile and sweet marjoram), CNS stimulants (oils of basil, clove, jasmine, peppermint, ylang-ylang, achillea, cajuput), Adaptogens(oils of geranium and ylang-yalang), bronchodilators (oils of ginger, black pepper, pumilo pine, angelica, eucalyptus), Congestive respiratory disorder (oils of eucalyptus, cinnamon, peppermint), anti-stress (oils of lemon grass and cedar wood) and muscle relaxant.
Also, this can easily be integrated with eco-tourism which helps to find domestic market for
indigenous essential oils. Australia is the first country to have an eco-tourism strategy and Malaysia has followed the same suit. Diverse ecological zones of India offer scope for developing eco-tourism in the country to generate substantial foreign exchange without the usual disastrous ecological degradation associated with general tourism.
Ecological foundations are essential for sustained advances in biological productivity and the atmosphere is experiencing gradual degradation. Hence, there is need for developing technologies which can lead to high productivity without any adverse effect on natural resource base. Blending traditional and frontier technologies lead to birth of eco-technologies with combined strength of economics, ecology, equity, energy and employment. Also, eco-technologies enable adoption of ISO 9000 and ISO 14000 standards of environmental management.
Application of essential oils in agriculture as anti-feedent, repellent (oil of citronella, basil, lemon grass, pine, eucalyptus, camphor, turpentine), botanical insecticides (oil of Acorus calamus), natural herbicides, anti-microbial (oils of Marjoram, cinnamon, angelica, peppermint, clove, camphor), anti-fungal (Volatile oils of Pongamia glabra, Acorus calamus, Ocimum canum, Ocimum adscendens and Ocimum gratissimum and considered as potent agents against storage pests and fungal pathogens), ovicidal (citrus oil, carvacrol, citronellol, eugenol, geraniol, farnesol), attractant (patchouli oil), antigonadal and growth boosters are still open to fascinating realm of research as well as a potent source of environmentally and ecologically safe pesticides. Anti-carcinogenic property has been reported from essential oils of cumin and basil and these can be used as protective agents against carcinogenesis.

Biocide reparation from herbs and extraction and production of plant growth regulators and allelochemicals (Volatile Terpenes) are areas where our indigenous knowledge and bio diversity resources can be profitably exploited. E.g. Salvia sclarea produces volatile inhibitors viz. Camphor, 1, 8- cineole, pinene and dipentene which inhibit DNA synthesis, seed germination and growth of many weeds. Essential oils of peppermint, basil and spearmint also inhibit seed germination activity. Components of essential oils viz. Linalool, menthol, pulegone, benzaldehyde, carvacrol, carvone, cinnamaldehyde etc. has fungistatic effects. Hence, essential oils, secondary metabolites are considered inexpensive, biodegradable, more systemic and environment friendly botanical pesticides. Cultivation & processing of essential oils bearing MAPs form an important area in international agri-business with an estimated annual growth rate of 7-10 per cent. Availability of huge scientifically trained man power, improved technologies, plant varieties, processing technologies and relatively cheaper cost of production now place India in a condition favourable for it to become a major producer, processor and supplier of medicinal & aromatic materials in the world market.
Production of secondary metabolites in bioreactors under controlled conditions using cell and tissue culture offers exciting frontiers of future research. There is continuous search for more potent and cheaper raw materials to feed the pharmaceutical industry. With concerted R&D efforts, many MAPs could provide raw material in abundance to the indigenous pharmacies and local herbalists.
Post-harvest processing of MAPs and its value addition are receiving attention of biochemist, phyto-chemist and chemical engineers for designing effective and efficient equipments for cold and hot extraction of oils, fractions and crude extracts for domestic use and export as well as keeping in view the emergence of ‘nature food’, ‘ethnic food’ and ‘yogic food’ and emphasis on ‘back to nature’, uses of spice based oils, oleoresins, ointments and flavourings would be in a bullish market in the new millennium.

Currently, about 150 MAPs are cultivated in different parts of the world. Out of these, around 50 MAPs are commonly used commercially. But about 2500 Indian plant species which have MAPs properties could offer new essential oils and aroma chemicals to meet ever changing and ever growing demand for novel natural essential oils and aroma chemicals. Potential of such lesser known medicinal & aromatic plants (e.g. Piper nigrum, Curcuma angustifolia, Curcuma zedoria, Alpinia galangal, Kaempferia galangal) needs further studies and exploitation since, MAPs are known as the biological mine of novel products and application.
Nutraceuticals are also in great demand in the developed world particularly USA and Japan. Nutraceutical market in USA alone is about US$ 80-250 billion with a similar market size in Europe. Global demand for nutraceutical ingredients is expected to grow 5-8 per cent annually by 2010. The prominent ones could be probiotics, soy additives, lycopene, lutein, sterol based additives, green tea, glucosamine, chondroitin and coenzyme Q10. China and India may be the fastest growing markets, while the USA may remain the largest.

Standardised herbal extracts like ursolic acid for its anti-inflammtory properties, boswellic acid for its osteoarthritic relief properties and punicalgin for its antioxidant properties are gaining wide spread application and growing at an average of 10 – 15 per cent a year.
Contract farming facilitating private companies to develop a close interaction with farmers for uniform quality inputs, technological guidance, post harvest processing facilities and importantly marketing and assured cash returns may help in developing the national market for medicinal plants. Government putting its weight behind contract farming/legal support to a practice can give small farmers access to modern technology and resources.


MAP competes with agricultural crops for the same area of land. But owing to the basic necessity, food crops are given more preference.

No efficient & effective extension services are available which may encourage the farmers to grow the crop. Lack of sustainable rural development program and farmers training programme are among the main constraints. Also, information are scattered & the farmers are ignorant.


The MAP is grown by farmers but essential oils are manufactured by the industries. Hence, the middlemen exploit the growers frequently owing to oscillating prices. The lack of price control at government level is disheartening and growers become less interested to expand their cultivation or adopt new crops. Recently mint oil has found its place in commodity exchanges (NCDEX & MCX) and quality based trading has been taking place for the last about two years. This has resulted in bringing stability to the price to some extent besides ensuring remunerative price to the producer of menthol mint oil.


Generally Indian farmers are not connected with industries. Also, Indian industries are less interested to implement or sponsor projects. The scientist and researchers offered adequate opportunities to achieve technological success which will give viable commercial return. Now, CIMAP taking efforts of linking farmers with industry adopting the innovative bio-village approach in some of the crops (geranium and Artemisia) which have shown the way towards mitigation the problem of poor marketing avenues or non-availability of assured market. However, response from the industrial partners is still less than desired.


Essential oils are either hydro or steam distilled purified products. Every grower cannot afford to have distillation units as they need more investment.


Generally, improved varieties evolved through different techniques do not reach farmers. There is very large gap between lab & land. There is also lack of projection of already evolved varieties.


There are some possibilities of genetic erosion or vulnerability which affects the productivity to a large extent.


Commercial use of MAP also poses a major threat to biodiversity in the region. Alarming levels of deforestation and ecosystem degradation may also be contributing to a decline in population of MAPs. Government regulations on wild collections of endangered species are necessary and inevitable looking at the loss and degradation of the natural habitats and over harvesting of endangered species.

The industry today faces critical issues on standardisation of quality, contamination and adulteration. Contaminants viz. Microbes, microbial toxins, environmental pollutant or heavy metals should be checked in herbal and traditional medicines. The major hindrance in the amalgamation of herbal medicine into modern medical practices is the lack of scientific & clinical data and better understanding of efficacy and safety of the herbal products.


Markets of MAPs are unorganized both directly and indirectly due to:

  • MAPs are exhaustible if overused
  • The current practices of harvesting are unsustainable and causes depletion of resource base
  • The pharmaceutical companies are also responsible for inefficient, informal and opportunistic marketing of MAPs
  • Absence of serious policy attention where the origin of a particular drug is assigned to more than one plant due to which adulteration is common in such case
  • Marketability of products is a crucial factor in determining the failure or success of this sector
  • A clear understanding of both the supply side issues and the factors driving the demand ad size of the MAPs market is a vital step towards planning for both conservation and sustainable use of these plants
  • Ensure continued availability of the basic ingredients used to address the health needs
  • Decline of folk traditional medicines, a source of primary health care for an estimated 800 million people in the country
  • Impoverishment of rural people, who are stewards of the resource base and the holders of traditional, ecological and medical knowledge through inequitable marketing channels
  • Medicinal plants trade is inefficient, imperfect, informal and opportunistic
  • Deficient toxicology studies and standard preparations to improve the quality, efficacy and effectiveness of the traditional drugs
  • Lack of co-ordination amongst various stake holders of MAPs sector viz. Govt. Of India (Ministry of Agriculture, Environmental & Forests, ISM &H (Indian System of Medicines & Health), S&T etc.), state government, private traditional medicine sector, research institutes, NGOs and International networks etc.
  • Present pattern of production and trade of essential oils and aroma chemicals is characterized by factors viz. Fluctuations in demand and price, competitiveness and instability in supplies, with progressive increase in number of producers in many developing and industrialized countries. China, Brazil & Indonesia are strong competitors for Indian aromatic oils.
  • Strong linkages should be developed between medicinal plant growers, health experts and pharmaceutical industries for developing scientific basis on which these systems of medicine are working.
  • Need to develop better institutional R&D support and public policies for the development of essential oil industry
  • The aromatic plants should be declared as plantation crop in terms of Land Ceiling Act to increase the acreage under commercial cultivation. In plantation crop sectors also cultivation of MAPs may be encouraged and effort should be made to grow them as companion crop. Licensing utilization of unused land on the tea, coffee and rubber estates for growing MAPs as plantation items may be encouraged.
  • To encourage naturally produced essential oils, some regulatory assistance must be imposed in order to giving many preferences to the natural products than imported synthetic substances.
  • Capital support assistance should be provided to farmers. For distilling the produce and marketing of oils in bulk, farmer’s co-operative to be developed.
  • To meet the international standards and for export of natural essential oil, genuine quality of seeds/propagules are to be chosen. Also, introduction of chosen new crops and variety from abroad may be encouraged. Besides, top priority should be given to the conservation of existing germplasm and preservation of natural gene pool must be ensured.
  • Extension services to be strengthened for cultivation of MAPs, operation of field distillation units and transport of essential oils to the marketing centres. Information regarding quality, pricing factors and market demands, processing methods to make derivatives of aromatic plants for use in food, flavour and perfumery should be provided.
  • About 60 essential oils are extensively used in the fragrance and flavour industries and India imports substantial quantities. Hence, diversification of essential oil production will lessen our dependence on imports and will increase possibilities of exports.
  • To make the product international standards, designing of equipment capable of handling multiple process and standardisation of condition required for each process is necessary. Quality of fragrance and flavours should be maintained as per internationally accepted chemical, physical and organoleptic standards. Hence, central supporting of R&D services for quality control of the product is needed.
  • To preserve the oil and its quality, proper fabrication of still units, optimisation of conditions and operational parameters should be considered and high grade of hexane should be supplied for the manufacture of floral extracts otherwise presence of large quantity of sulphur in extract deteriorates the quality.
  • World essential oils markets change in a short span of time with rapidity. Communication between the essential oil suppliers, the fragrance supplier and market must be improved.

  • Production of plant materials shall be free from microbial contaminations, external residues of toxic materials like pesticide etc.
  • Consumers and practitioners, with strong and increase awareness about health and environment coupled with stringent regulatory quality measures in international arena, consistently demand of high quality/organically grown materials i.e. development of organic farming technologies (Following ECOCERT Standard) of MAPs for greater acceptability of plant produce in international market.
  • To explore the optimal utilization of available resources to develop integrated cropping system and maximising net returns. Cultivation of MAPs should be encouraged as companion crops in traditional agriculture system and forestry to maximise land, water and nutritional utilization.
  • Present world going herbal trends at consumer level favouring use of natural products are considered more harmonious with human metabolism.
  • In coming years, land and water resources are sure to face acute degradation, also the stresses as of supply of non-renewable fossil fuel and phosphate will be main constraints. Under such condition, MAPs with inherent capabilities to grow under natural stress with better yields of secondary metabolites (Active chemical constituents) would be crops of choice for sustainability.
  • Isolation of bio-molecules from MAPs and improving their content in plant. Since, bio-molecules may find use in wide range of application such as anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, anti-protozoan, anti-cancerous, hapato-protective, anti-obesity, anti-diabetic, anti –depressant, cardiovascular and nervine stimulator , bio-enhancers as well as actively indulged in neutracueticals.
For More Details:

Dr. Sunil Kumar
Assistant Professor (Floriculture)
College of Horticulture & Forestry
Central Agricultural University
Pasighat, Arunachal Pradesh
e–Mail: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

e-Arik (e-Agriculture)
ICTs for Agricultural Extension
Village Knowledge Centre
Yagrung Village
Pasighat, East Siang District
Phone No.:2282323

Acknowledgement: This publication is prepared with the support from the Technology Information Facilitation Programme (TIFP), Department of Scientific and Industrial Research (DSIR), Grant No.: DSIR/TIF086/2007; Dated March, 2007.